Personal protective equipment

Wear the right PPE the right way

Product experts weigh in


Photos: Honeywell; Magid; Red Wing

One worker may put on a pair of gloves that are too big for him. Later, one of the gloves catches on a machine and results in a cut to the worker’s hand. Another worker may grab the closest available hard hat to wear, ignoring that it doesn’t fit her head properly. The same hard hat may fall off during a job task, leaving her head unprotected. These are only a couple of ways personal protective equipment is used incorrectly in the workplace. Safety+Health asked experts in the PPE industry a question:

What do safety pros and workers need to know – and remember – about correctly using PPE?

Here’s what they had to say.

“There are two important aspects to getting workers to wear PPE correctly – training and comfort. First, be sure they actually understand how to wear it and why it’s important. No gap between sleeves and gloves, hard hats ratcheted tight, safety glasses over the eyes (not at the top of the head), protective clothing properly zipped and tucked. You can get a lot of mileage out of simply explaining the points of vulnerability that your employees may not realize.”

– Brittany Cohen, product marketing manager, Magid

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen a trend in the construction industry of companies implementing more advanced head protection solutions. One of the main reasons is due to the increase in head-related injuries resulting from angled impacts to the head from falling objects and slips, trips and falls. With traditional ANSI Type 1 hard hats only being tested for top-of-head impact protection, they don’t effectively protect workers. In addition, companies are looking for better compatibility with other PPE and accessories, including eye and face protection and earmuffs. ANSI Type 2 safety helmets, with additional internal protective liners and universal accessory slots, often meet these needs by offering advanced, versatile and comfortable protection that workers don’t mind wearing all day.”

– Jim Huebner, marketing channel manager – construction, Protective Industrial Products

“To ensure safety professionals and their workers understand how to use appropriate PPE products effectively and safely, it is vital they learn from trained and qualified safety equipment experts. Those who manufacture, test and sell PPE know it better than anyone. They have not only helped to write the performance standards for safety products, but they also understand exactly how the equipment protects a wearer or user, and they know firsthand if and how it conforms to ensure effectiveness.

“Safety equipment professionals, including those who are QSSP-certified, can become trusted partners to safety managers and employers, working with them to ensure they feel confident in the PPE provided to workers. They will demonstrate how the gear works and how it should fit and feel, and they will offer solutions for potential challenges as well as hazards that might not have previously been considered or identified.”

– Cam Mackey, president and CEO, International Safety Equipment Association

“When PPE use is required, be sure that you choose the correct solution not only for the hazard, but also considering the application/task. For example, is it a wet or dry hazard? How long are you exposed to a hazard? Could edges act as sharp objects? Is there dust in the air that can get into the eyes? These are all key considerations. And to ensure PPE delivers its intended protection, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for PPE use. Lastly, here’s a pro tip: To increase compliance at your facility, look for products with more human-centric design features. These will be more comfortable and durable than their baseline counterparts, facilitating all-day wear to get the job done.”

– Stacy Turner, category manager, safety, Kimberly-Clark Professional

“Protecting workers from injury is the top priority, and there is no substitute for high-quality personal pro-tective equipment. From the head to the eyes, body, hands and feet, every piece of PPE should be unique to your jobsite and your workers. Well-fitting PPE is personal – one size or style won’t work for everyone. For example, men’s and women’s feet have very different shapes, so when choosing work boots, people should look for gender-specific designs to help ensure the best possible fit. Additionally, hands come in all shapes and sizes, and not all gloves are created equal. Reinforced gloves should fit snugly – not tightly – and the ideal pair should have an adjustable fit. The best-fitting gloves help to relieve fatigue and can be worn for long periods of time. Safety hard hats, performance workwear and safety glasses are additional pieces of PPE that should be tailored to each individual worker. Head-to toe coverage is crucial. Staying current on the latest innovations and materials in PPE will help you find the right fit for your workers, which will in turn drive adoption and compliance for safer worksites.”

– Tito Warren, president of global industrial sales 
and operations, Red Wing Shoe Co.

“To help keep workers safe, it is critical to remember that proper fit is key. If PPE does not fit well, then it cannot do its job in providing the necessary level of protection. No matter the type of protective gear, this remains true. For respiratory protection, a correctly worn respirator should be completely sealed around the nose, cheeks and chin to ensure contaminants cannot enter through gaps or breaks in the seal. For hearing protection, an eighth of an inch can be the difference between receiving the stated level of protection based on the noise reduction rating on a hearing protection device and getting no protection at all. And for hand protection, loose-fitting gloves can result in excess material getting snagged on industrial equipment and can hinder dexterity. As PPE designers and manufacturers continue to innovate their personal protective equipment, attention to small innovations, such as easily ensuring proper fit, can have a large impact on making sure PPE is designed for correct and consistent use. It makes a real difference in keeping workers safe.”

– Thiago Zambotti, vice president and general manager, general safety, Honeywell Personal Protective Equipment


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